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Harlands admin fees and threats


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Hi,

I urgently need advice on dealing with Harlands, Here is the story so far.

 

Me and my boyfriend signed up to our local Lifestyle fitness gym, under a 12 month contract. Both memberships were set up to be debited from his account.

 

8 months in, he got a letter saying that there weren't sufficient funds to pay his membership, so they were asking for the £15 for the months membership, and a £25 admin fee. We went into the actual gym and asked if the other membership (mine) had been paid for, and they said that only one of our memberships was suspended, so one must have been paid.

I then got a letter saying that mine hadn't been paid, with them asking for the same amount (£15 membership and a £25 admin fee). Because I had not changed my address with them (completely my fault) my letter got to me late, so when they tried to take the £40 out for my membership, they couldn't take it, and I got a letter explaining a charge.

 

'Your bank have advised us that our submission of £40.00 to cover the previously returned instalment plus the administration charge has been returned "refer to payer". You have now incurred a further £25.00 charge and are £60.00 in arrears.'

'Your next instalment is due in a few days time but we will not make another submission until the outstanding £65 is paid'.

 

They then carry on to say I had to call by 27/10 to avoid further charges. I didn't call as I was unable to contact them during their opening hours due to other commitments.

 

I have recently received another letter which states -

'We refer to our previous letter and note that you have not contacted us. You have now incurred a further £25 charge and are £105.00 in arrears.

Under your Membership Agreement, you have promised to pay this debt. If you continue to refuse to honour that commitment, we will have no option but to take further steps to collect the outstanding balance.

We want to help you resolve this situation but you must call us. Ignoring our letters is only resulting in further charges being added.

 

If you do not contact us by 13th November your balance of £135.00 will be passed to a debt recovery company who will add their fees to your account'.

 

I've tried to read up as much as I can on what to do, but I'm just really confused now. Do I call them, so it doesn't get passed on to a Debt recovery company, or do I email them and only leave a paper trail?

 

My dad had told me I need to call them and pay them the £135.00, but I don't understand how it could cost them £75 in administration. I can't afford to pay it and I don't know what to do because they just keep putting more admin fees on top of it and I feel like its going to spiral out of control.

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Hi Autopic and welcome to CAG

 

First off, you do NOT need urgent advice about Harlands. They have neither power or authority, despite what they tell you, and in reality there's very little they can do. Please read some other Harlands threads here and you'll see they threaten lots but do very little.

 

Your post is long and I'll read it through before replying fully.

 

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Ok, I've read through your post and can comment properly. My advice relates to both yours and your BF's m/ships.

 

Do NOT call Harlands for any reason and, if they call you, tell them "In writing only", then hang up !!

 

With all due respect, your dad is wrong and you do not need to pay what Harlands are demanding. We maintain their admin fees are unenforceable and unlawful penalty charges that should not be paid.

 

Their debt recovery is initially dealt with by CRS, who are actually Harlands using a different letter headed paper from the same address. We've been dealing with Harlands/CRS for many years and we know what they do and how to handle them.

 

I suggest you cancel the DD mandates immediately to avoid any attempts to take further fees. If your bank refuses to pay a DD request, the bank will charge you on each occasion.

 

Can you tell us :-

 

1.When you first signed up at the gym.

 

2. Were the fees paid under one or two DD mandates.

 

3, When were the normal monthly fees last paid from your BF's bank a/c.

 

Ignore their demand that you contact them by 13th Nov'r. We'll suggest how and when you write to them when you're good and ready.

 

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Thanks for replying!

I'm worried about the admin fee because it is stated in the contract, which I signed. Also, a bit more info, my boyfriend paid the admin fee (he didn't have a choice, they took it out of his bank first chance they got).

 

Should we both cancel out memberships, even though it's only mine that they're chasing money for? Then again we can't tell which is which, but won't they start chasing him for money too?

 

Our first payments for the gym got taken out on the 2nd Feb 2015, we can't remember the exact date we joined though. It was early January 2015.

 

I don't know what a Direct Debit Mandate is, but they are both being paid from the same account.

 

The last fully paid ones were on the 1st September, then on the 1st October there weren't sufficient funds in the account for either memberships. They then took £40 out on the 12th October, covering one of the memberships admin fees and the actual membership.

 

We have also just noticed that the bank has also starting giving him unpaid transaction fees, agh what a mess.

 

Also, I have just noticed that in the most recent letter, it says that I'm £105.00 in arrears, then further down in the letter it says that my balance is £135.00. I don't understand how this is calculated.

Edited by Autoptic
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A direct Debit Mandate is the instruction you would have signed originally for them to take the money out of your account each month. If you cancel the DD mandate and it is mistakenly paid afterwards, then the bank will be obliged to refund you and any charges incurred should there not have been sufficient funds. One of the downsides of a DD mandate is that they are usually variable and the person to whom the mandate is in favour of can take out more.. eg the admin charges - although they are legally obliged to tell you they will be doing this at least 7 days prior to doing so.

 

A standing order is another way of making monthly payment - however you are in control of when and how it is paid or not.

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Hi Auto,

 

Just because admin fees are mentioned in m/ship T&C's does NOT make them lawful or enforceable. An example is Barclaycard's T&C's which allow BC to charge £12 if you fail to make a payment on time. We've helped folk reclaim tens of thousands of £'s of such fees. This works with credit cards, catalogue a/c's, mortgages and bank loans but NOT with bank current a/c's

 

The UTCCR (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations) exist because agreements or contracts DO contain clauses that are unfair to consumers.

 

I would cancel the DD Mandate(s) immediately (this is the signed authority that allows Harlands to take money each month for the gym fees). I would do this because Harlands have already taken admin fees which we say they're not entitled to take and they'll do so again. Also, every time your BF's bank bounces a DD, the bank charges him default fees, as I said in my post above and you've also now mentioned.

 

The amounts demanded by Harlands will go up each time they add more of their admin fees but this does NOT mean that you owe them, or that you have to pay them.

 

Let us know when the DD's have been cancelled via your bank. We will then help with a letter to send Harlands, who will probably contact you as soon as they learn of the DD cancellation.

 

You should be reassured by reading other threads here which show Harlands constantly making demands and threats but not actually DOING anything. Even when they involve Zinc (a n outside DCA) or Spratt Endicott (their current pet solicitor), we help CAGgers get them to back off quickly.

 

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In that case it would be two direct debit mandates I think?

 

We have literally just cancelled the direct debit for both the memberships, and managed to get the unpaid transaction fee back from the bank. Yayy!

 

I have read through hundreds of threads about Harlands, it's reassuring, but lets be honest.. I'm young, I don't know much about this stuff, I'm an easy target.

Luckily I found this site :D

 

Getting worried because loads of people are telling me I have to call them.. but then again they haven't dealt with Harlands before so they don't know what the best thing to do is

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Hi Auto,

 

Great result with the bank charge refund !!

 

I've been helping folk deal with Harlands for over 7 years and I'm telling you now - do NOT call Harlands for any reason !! You will hear nothing from them to help you out of this situation.

 

Harlands will contact you initially, then they'll swap letterheads and write to you as CRS, but they are the same outfit. When you stand up to Harlands/CRS, Zinc may get in touch followed by Spratt Endicott but both will scuttle off quickly when challenged.

 

Wait until Harlands contact you when they find out about the DD cancellation and let us know. We'll then suggest your reply to send.

 

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Ok I'll refrain from calling.

 

I have another big problem.. I have changed address, so the letters are getting sent to my mums house who I don't see often. And I don't know how to change my address with them, I went into the actual gym to ask and they were no help at all. All the gym ever says is 'just call Harlands'

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Hi Auto,

 

Just ask YM to look out for a letter from Harlands in Haywards Heath, Sussex. When you get this, we'll help with a reply to them that will include your new address.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've asked my mum to keep an eye out for any letters for me, and she says she hasn't received any. I just got a text from CRS saying

 

'Please call C R S on 01444 449165 between 9 and 5pm. We sent a letter a week ago and need to discuss this with you. Thank you.'

 

Trying to get her to have a look for the letter

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Hi Auto,

 

You should simply ignore their request.

 

Let us know when/if they write to you.

 

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I have 2 letters from CRS (they are both exactly the same, date and everything).

 

The letter states that my account balance is now £201.50, with their fees of £66.50 added.

 

They then have a section of 'options' for paying them and mention numerous times that I should call them, and they said they will cease further letters for 7 days (obviously I'm past 7 days now).

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Hi Auto,

 

More waffle which I would ignore completely.

 

Next will be the threat of passing this to Zinc and then Zinc themselves will write to you.

 

Keep us posted.

 

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  • 2 months later...

I have recieived another letter, this time from Spratt Endicott. (18th Feb 2016)

 

'We act on behalf of the above named client. They have instructed us to write to you concerning the above debt due to them.

 

Failure to reply to this notice in 7 days may result in legal proceedings to recover the above balance unless you contact us to discuss your payment proposals.

 

Any claim resulting in proceedings will include additional costs payable by you. You should also note that if Judgement is obtained you may find it difficult to obtain credit from other sources as the judgement will be registered and remain on your credit file for 6 years.

 

Please contact us to discuss your account so that we may come to an arrangement that is affordable and sustainable in line with your financial circumstances and therefore it will not be necessary to issue proceedings.

 

If you require free financial or legal advice we would recommend that you contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Step Change [...]

 

We hope it will not be necessary for us to issue proceedings and that we will hear from you without delay'

 

I've still not sent a single letter to them and it feels as though it's got to a point where I would like to start getting it sorted.

 

I've also been getting texts, calls and voicemails from them about three times weekly.

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Hi Autopic,

 

Due to the fact that you've ignored all contact attempts so far, I'd now write to Harlands saying :-

 

I cancelled my Lifestyle Gym DD mandate due to Harlands adding increasing amounts of admin fees which I could not afford.

 

Such fees are effectively penalties and are not enforceable, despite them being mentioned in membership T&C's.

 

Further demands from Harlands/CRS, Zinc or Spratt Endicott will be reported to Trading Standards and The CMA.

 

Then write to Spratts saying :-

 

I refer to your letter of xxdate.

 

I enclose a copy of my letter sent today to Harlands.

 

If you contact me again, you will be included in my formal complaints, as well as a separate complaint to the SRA.

 

Get a free Certificate of Posting from the PO when you send the letters and keep these as proof of posting.

 

Keep us updated and don't be too concerned about Spratt's involvement. I've not seen a single case where their threats have turned into court action and they tend to back off when challenged.

 

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